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While cloud services are considered by many to be the next logical step of information technology, a number of channel representatives attending this week's HP Global Partner Conference in Las Vegas say that getting signatures at the bottom of the contracts can often be problematic.
A move to the cloud may be controversial within any given organization. Executives involved with accounting aspects may be drawn to the cloud's potential to trim the expense line. IT staff, on the other hand, may see the cloud as a threat to their jobs.
"You will find that different people within the organization have different agendas," said Al Chien, vice president of sales and marketing at Dasher Technologies, a Campbell, Calif.-based HP channel partner. "The discussion usually initiates in a CXO's office. If the CIO has given the direction, then the conversation evolves differently than it would if it came from elsewhere within the organization. Once that mandate is given, things seem to become more focused. This is particularly true at the enterprise level, which has been a lot slower to adopt."
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The conventional wisdom around job displacement is that the cloud will free them up from mundane tasks so that IT personnel can focus on more strategic and valuable initiatives. "This argument is more accepted in some cases than in others," added Chien. "There are always individuals who feel threatened by the cloud, but a lot of times, moving to the cloud makes a lot of sense. It's definitely a learning process, and we need to spend time educating the client and helping to alleviate their concerns."
Most partners agree that getting the customer comfortable with cloud services tends to be job one from a sales point of view, as soon as the idea is brought to the customers.
"It is about understanding customer biases and either helping them to adjust or evolving with those biases," said Linda Delario, vice president of Premier Systems, Ltd., a Philadelphia-based partner. "You take the vendor message back to the customer, and then apply it to their business situation to build a solution that enhances performance, reduces cost, or whatever the end result might be. In most cases we see a hybrid model in which customers want to move some things to the cloud and the other things on the premises."
As such, many vendors, distributors and other players in the IT industry have been developing channel enablement programs and similar initiatives aimed at attracting channel partners to sell their offering and generally view the potential of cloud in ways compatible to their own.
"HP is focusing on support, training, go-to-market assistance, cloud access, proof of concept, technical support, and similar forms of assistance for their channel partners," said Dan Baigent, senior director of business development for HP's cloud services. "A lot of them are still unsure of how to enter this market and how to adjust their strategies and back-end systems. So we are helping them learn to manage their annuity streams and helping them to develop the systems to support that."
Baigent added that the initial inquiries are often the most critical part of the discussion. "The partner needs to take the temperature of the customer organization," he explained. "They need to find out who is in favor of cloud services and who is not in favor of cloud services and how to align the value proposition with the needs of various groups."